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WHO mission to Wuhan to publish COVID-19 origins report this week

GENEVA: The much-anticipated report from the worldwide mission to Wuhan to examine COVID-19’s origins is ready to be printed this week, following intense US and Chinese stress over its contents.

The coronavirus pandemic has engulfed the planet, killing greater than 2.6 million folks and shredding the worldwide financial system for the reason that first instances emerged within the Chinese metropolis in December 2019.

In the 15 months since then, science has miraculously developed a number of vaccines to struggle the illness – however the thriller on the very coronary heart of the pandemic stays unsolved.

IN FOCUS: How a year of COVID-19 changed Singapore forever

It was solely in January {that a} crew of worldwide specialists assembled by the World Health Organization (WHO) lastly visited Wuhan to start a month-long investigation on the bottom.

The WHO mission was aimed toward discovering clues as to how the virus initially jumped from animals into people.

Now, one other month on after leaving Wuhan, the crew and its Chinese counterparts are set to difficulty their findings – which ought to assist to establish the probably pathways, whereas relegating different much less possible hypotheses.

HUNT FOR CLUES

While world leaders need rapid solutions, uncovering the precise origin of an epidemic takes time – and is typically by no means discovered.

Nonetheless, the mission members, drawn from a spread of fields and disciplines, are upbeat.

It was only in January 2021 that a team of international experts assembled by WHO finally visited

It was solely in January 2021 {that a} crew of worldwide specialists assembled by the World Health Organization lastly visited Wuhan to begin a month-long investigation into the origins of COVID-19 on the bottom. (Photo: AFP/Hector RETAMAL)

“I’m convinced we’re going to find out fairly soon. Within the next few years, we’re going to have real significant data on where this came from and how it emerged,” British zoologist Peter Daszak, one of many crew members, stated on Wednesday (Mar 10).

READ: WHO says all hypotheses still open in probe into COVID-19 origins

On Feb 9, the crew held a prolonged information convention in Wuhan earlier than departing, giving a taster of what may seem within the report.

Experts imagine that SARS-CoV-2, the brand new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, initially got here from bats and jumped into people through an intermediate animal.


However, samples from tens of 1000’s of untamed, home and livestock within the area revealed no hint of the virus.

The scientists are additionally unsure as to the place and when the outbreak began, although the Wuhan instances stay the earliest recognized.

LIKELIEST ROUTE

That stated, the mission has produced numerous hypotheses.

“There was conduit (back) from Wuhan to the provinces in south China where the closest relative viruses to SARS-CoV-2 are found in bats,” Daszak advised an occasion hosted by Britain’s Chatham House think-tank final week.

“It provides a link and a pathway by which a virus could convincingly spill over from wildlife into either people or animals farmed in the region and then shipped into a market.

“That’s a very vital clue.”

The team also did not rule out transmission through frozen meat – imported frozen food packages being Beijing’s favourite theory.

READ: China orders inspections to prevent COVID-19 spread via cold chain

Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, also a member of the team, said that while transmission of the virus could potentially happen through infected people touching frozen food products, “the origin probably isn’t the skin of the bundle”.

However, she and her colleagues said frozen wild meat from neighbouring provinces remained a “very legitimate choice”.


The WHO experts pushed back against the theory that the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute

The WHO specialists pushed again towards the idea that the coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. (Photo: AFP/Hector RETAMAL)

The concept of a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a speculation promoted by former US president Donald Trump’s administration – is “the least likely on the list of our hypotheses”, stated Koopmans.

It was downplayed on the Wuhan information convention.

READ: China offers glimpse inside Wuhan lab near COVID-19 origin

However, again in Geneva, within the face of clouds of suspicion that continued to grasp over the mission, WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted all hypotheses remained on the desk and promised transparency over the report.

TUG OF WAR

Behind the scenes and in public, China and the United States have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the report.

The plan to publish a abstract first, with the primary report to observe, was ditched in late February, with none actual rationalization from the WHO.

The White House, which had had issues a couple of abstract report being issued first that will not include the underlying knowledge behind it, voiced its delight and claimed credit score for the change of plan.

READ: White House cites ‘deep concerns’ about WHO COVID-19 report, demands early data from China

US and Chinese diplomats have waded in additional than as soon as whereas awaiting the report, with one facet calling for better transparency; the opposite insisting that the mission was solely attainable with scientific cooperation from Beijing.

Trump had accused the WHO of being China’s puppet.

Though his successor Joe Biden has modified the tone in the direction of the UN well being company since turning into US president in January, Washington has continued to voice critical issues concerning the WHO investigation, and has pushed Beijing to present extra information.


The stress is emanating not simply from the United States.

Walter Stevens, the European Union’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, just lately known as for the report to be “completely transparent” and reply the questions “that we all have”.

The mission insists it acquired entry to all of the websites and other people it needed to.

However, crew chief Peter Ben Embarek requested for extra knowledge, so as to go deeper into the investigation.

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